What is your favorite travel memory?
One of my favorite travel memories comes from my time in Ghana where I served as a volunteer in 2010. During my time in Ghana, I lived with a host family and learned upon my arrival that my host mother did not speak any English. Though challenging at first, I soon learned the importance of adapting to my new environment, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and adjusting my actions to meet the needs of the host community.
I also found that hugs, smiles, and simple gestures go a long way in communicating when speaking is not an option and that, regardless of language barriers, we are able to communicate with others and learn from each other in the process.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I think my growth since working at United Planet really stems from learning the importance of working alongside developing communities rather than imposing plans and projects on to others that we may deem successful or necessary.
I always knew that I had a passion for international service and I definitely believe that this quality in and of itself is admirable. However, learning how to interact with communities in ethical and sustainable ways ensures that the service you provide is truly having a positive impact on the host community, and this idea is something that was further cultivated during my time at United Planet.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
The most inspiring stories that I hear from returned volunteers are not necessarily those where a volunteer had an incredibly easy experience from start to finish.
Often, those who come away from their programs having learned and grown the most are those who were challenged in some way during their time abroad.
Dealing with culture shock and adjusting to a different way of life takes flexibility, patience, and an open-mind, and though we may understand what this means intellectually, it’s a true skill to put these attributes intro practice in times of discomfort. I’m constantly inspired by our volunteers who really push themselves to be open to these new experiences and develop as global citizens in the process.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
At United Planet, our programs are authentic and immersive allowing volunteers to really engage with the culture of their host country as a local rather than a tourist.
I am proud that United Planet provides volunteers with the opportunity to experience a new culture in such a meaningful way all the while ensuring that volunteers are able to interact with and foster relationships with the local people.
My most fulfilling travel experiences have been those where I was able to learn about myself and others through conversations with individuals who opened my mind to different perspectives and ways of seeing the world. I am proud to work for an organization that provides this same opportunity to others!